Review: Russian Marvels by Queensland Symphony Orchestra, QPAC

Sally Peters

An outstanding evening performance with guest Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and distinctive pianist Stephen Hough.
Review: Russian Marvels by Queensland Symphony Orchestra, QPAC

Guest Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero conducts Russian Marvels. Photo via Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Russian Marvels concert at QPAC was an outstanding evening performance with guest Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero (Director of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra) and distinctive pianist Stephen Hough.

Highlighting the Maestro composers Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich in a deeply riveting sequence of works that takes you on a journey into the Russian landscapes of beauty, humanity and social and political insights.

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The piece of Peter IIyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) Marche Slave, Op.31 is a touching ode to Pan-Slavic soldiers who went to war against Turkey in 1876. The music danced along gently offering an insight to the compassion and heart the composer had for his fellow countrymen. Moving through to sudden strong crescendos that were exhilarating, some reminiscent of canons or gunshots that were powerful militarised epitaphs. The piece ended with thunderous applause from the audience.

Sergei Rachmaninov’s (1873-1943) Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op, 43 was soft and spatial at times, quick and decisive in others with expanded highlights caressing the listener. Tender entrancing piano highlights from Stephen Hough (CBE) were magical and somewhat whimsical then moving to a quiet surrender not unlike a serenade. The music climbs to a rich tapestry of sound, and of powerful contrasting piano. A sense of struggle, victory and colourful rhythms engaged the audience. This is where Hough exhibited his masterful playing. There was a triumphant end, to which members of the audience shouted ‘Bravo!’ offering an invigorating standing ovation. To our delight Hough returned to the stage and performed a short solo of ‘Under the Moscow Night’, an adaption from a Russian folk song.

After the interval, Conductor Guerrero spoke of the background of the Symphony No.10 in E minor, Op.93 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). Indeed this work invokes a presence of Stalin’s government in the life of the composer whose movements reflect the sombre mood of tension. Grief, hurt and the disappearance of people who in the six note motifs flag the danger of losing loved ones being taken at any time. An emotional piece, this symphony has outbursts of bleak moods and shifts to a final outburst that has the whole orchestra bursting. I felt the incredible weight of the time in this performance and the attempt of the artist to rebel as well as tones of hope. Once again the audience was hugely appreciative of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s adept performance led by Guerrero.

QPAC’s Concert Hall is a state of the art performance venue of which Queenslanders are privileged to have. This concert was recorded for the ABC of which will hopefully be heard in future, either on Radio or perhaps as a CD. The enjoyment that was experienced by the audience was evident and even though there were definitely members who attend regularly to such concerts, there were obvious new attendees who had never experienced a Symphonic concert. I highly recommend the experience as a cultural and musical enjoyment.

Rating:  5 stars ★★★★★ 

Maestro Russian Marvels
By Queensland Symphony Orchestra
Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero
Piano Stephen Hough
Tchaikovsky Marche slave (Slavonic March), Op.31
Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43
Shostakovich Symphony No.10 in E minor, Op.93

9 June, 2018
Concert Hall QPAC, Brisbane

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Sally Peters is a freelance writer currently residing in Brisbane.